My Startup: UnderPinned

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UnderPinned is the dedicated platform for freelancers, helping professionals manage projects at every single stage, from sending a pitch to getting paid.

The London platform is focussed on building the future of freelancing so freelancers can focus on building the career they want. As well as offering the Virtual Office product, UnderPinned is also committed to creating a community through its Ground Floor, its freelance accelerator and community space.

Freelancing can be lonely and difficult for professionals - but UnderPinned is providing the support network freelancers need to work independently and confidently.

Founders: Albert Azis-Clauson and Jack Williams

Founded: 2018

Website: underpinned.co

We talked to Albert about the startup and its history.

Why did you start UnderPinned?

Before starting UnderPinned I ran a small media and arts business that was attached to an arts charity. The primary focus for both was helping young and emerging creatives get their careers off the ground through developing frameworks to help organise and manage themselves as a business.

At the same time, I was also consulting as a business development and PR specialist on the side. While it might seem that these two roles were quite different, the fundamentals of starting and building a successful business are the same for a painter as they are for a thousand-strong software company.

The big issue was that if you’re an individual working as a freelancer, there are no support structures to help you do it and no one has ever left uni ready to start a freelance career.

The idea for UnderPinned was born because I wanted to offer this support, and at scale. Most simply there are three problems that I wanted to solve: firstly, creating an engaging platform that people from all sectors can identify with freelancing; secondly, improving access to education around building a business; and finally, creating infrastructure to support network building, portfolio development, contracts, payments and project management - all in one place.

Tell us more about the tech behind the product.

UnderPinned is a one-stop career management platform every freelancer, and client hiring freelancers needs. From setting up and finding work to taking care of project management, billing, and managing finances, we are building the infrastructure for the future of work.

A key differentiator is that unlike recruitment platforms, at no point are you locked into UnderPinned. It is an open platform that doesn’t force you through winding recruitment paths, it gives you the tools to build your own.

The core service we provide for freelancers is our Virtual Office, a career management portal which is the beating heart of UnderPinned.

It is a cloud-based hub which helps freelancers find work, manage work and get paid, with services ranging from tools dedicated to portfolio and project management, to tools for invoicing and contracts. We also work with a wide range of specially selected partners to offer all of the career support a freelancer needs, from helplines to work spaces to insurance.

We also publish an online magazine focused on work, lifestyle, and culture in the freelance community and our headquarters in Hackney, The Ground Floor, provides a space for shared working, social and educational events, designed to support freelancers in every aspect of their career.

Where are you at right now?

We are in a very exciting place right now. This week, we will launch our premium membership product and will also be announcing two new partner companies, which will be integrated on our platform.

The UnderPinned team is now 12 strong, and this includes product managers, engineers, designers, marketing specialists, community leads, and content curators.

What are your aims for the next year?

As a brand we're going to keep growing and learning. It is very had to know what we will look like in a year because the nature of culture in the freelance sector is so fast-paced.

One thing that will remain unchanged is our attitude towards staying as creative as possible. Our main product is a tool which helps you do your most boring admin tasks, so it is so important that our brand remains vibrant and creative to keep our audience engaged, helping them make the most of their futures.

We are definitely going to keep building out our events schedule to showcase our communities work and make our brand a gallery for the work of others.

What's been the hardest thing about getting UnderPinned off the ground?

The thing I’ve found hardest is never being able to switch off because there’s always something more to do. There’s always a problem that needs solving, or an email that needs to be followed up. It becomes incredibly difficult to stop: when things are going well, you want to ride the momentum, and when things are looking tough, you need to buckle down.

Starting a business is a process of continuous improvement - both personally and for your fledgling business - and so you want to stop at nothing on the path to achieving your ambitions.

Why should more people be using UnderPinned?

Despite being a rapidly growing style of work, freelancers are faced by a long list of barriers. From administrative burdens to bureaucracy, it is a huge market with very little support. Underlying all of these issues is time; the more time spent trying to solve them, the less spent getting and doing the work.

Freelancers also have to manage multiple accounts and bits of tech to do ultimately one job.

UnderPinned is addressing these issues through our community and state of the art platform, firstly by massively alleviating the administrative burden freelancer face, and secondly, by giving them the tools and the information which will help them to find the work they want, manage their projects, and get paid on time.

We also want to be more than just an app. We are building a community of like-minded people and a support network for freelancers.

How much will it cost users - and why is it worth the investment?

Premium membership to UnderPinned and the Virtual Office will range from £2.50 to £30 a month. We will be rewarding our early stage users with a highly discounted premium - however, the standard starting price will be £7.49 a month, which is still cheaper than a Spotify account.

The feedback that we get is overwhelmingly positive and we’re regularly told by members that our service has made their life much easier. When we do introduce monthly membership fees, we’re confident that our members will see it as a very worthwhile investment, as many of them have already told us.

If you work for or with a tech startup in London that deserves being talked about, we'd love to profile them for a My Startup feature. Please get in touch with Charlie Spargo to discuss it further.